Looking at the bigger picture

The WTTC Global Summit highlights the need for transparency and strong leadership in tourism

In the fast-paced world of hotels, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the detail of your daily operation. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to step out from your company walls and even from beyond the comfort of your industry to learn from the bigger picture.

It’s also useful to steer away from Middle East centric trends and look at the global landscape of the US $6.6 trillion tourism industry we’re a small part of.

This was the point of the 13th annual World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit, hosted by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Etihad Airways, which rightly challenged 1000 of the world’s most senior tourism and hospitality experts to act as leaders “befitting of an industry that can generate growth, jobs, prosperity and sustainability at both global and regional level, like no other industry on this planet”.

Instead of looking to one another for guidance, the summit welcomed speakers from a range of industries with specific skills sets and experiences, all transferable in some way to hospitality. According to Dr Stelter, senior partner and MD, The Boston Consulting Group GmbH, there will be some “mega-trends” to watch out for.

“The travel and tourism mega-trends that will impact the industry are changing customer needs because of an ageing population; the shift to RDE (rapidly developing economy); further globalisation; and more convenience and time compression.”

Hurdles will be thrown up by mobility, infrastructure challenges and energy scarcity; new technology and increased intermediation, he continued.

Sandy Douglas, global chief customer officer, the Coca-Cola Company, picked up on the trend for changing consumer needs and caught the attention of many with his observations into the customer experience — highlighted by Coca-Cola’s evolving advertising campaigns, played out to a packed auditorium. Douglas showed how the company tackled the obesity epidemic and the related public criticism of soft drinks head-on with adverts showing how a range of “happy” exercises would burn off the 140 calories in a 355ml can.

Having since looked into it, the media reactions to this ‘anti-obesity’ advert are mixed, as with most campaigns tackling this issue. But as a consumer watching it, I was engaged and pretty impressed that the company had taken such a bold step to even address this. It seems I fall neatly into Douglas’ conclusion that the modern consumer makes their own decisions, is more connected than ever and also shapes their own relationship with global brands.

Ultimately, he urged the industry to focus on being transparent, even when it comes to the ever-sensitive conflict between travel and tourism and the environment.

With Coca-Cola taking a stand on obesity, isn’t it time a hotel chain was bold enough to stand up for sustainability?

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